How did I end up like this?!
She didn't know how often she'd had this same thought. Time had no meaning in this...place.
Damn the warlock...and damn that lich most of all...
Why?! You could have solved everything, warlock. I am one of the most exquisite magical creatures to ever exist on this dying world...and you threw me away for that...that stink bomb?! You denied me...ME!?
And worse...you bound my incredible power...and then you threw me into this hellish pit...where the days all blend together...damn you. Even the man called Cadonfloyd, ignorant of his true potential as he was, could have sufficed...but you consigned me to this prison.
I hate you...I hate you so much...I...
She felt something. A slight tug.
What is happening?!
The prison started to rotate violently...she painfully slammed into the walls again and again...
And then, in a moment so violently sudden she doubted her senses, the prison was gone.
She opened one eye. The room was dark, but she saw the play of dim light not far away. Scents wafted through the air.
She stood up. I'm still weakened...I can feel it...but...
There were smoking clay fragments around her...This was the vessel he imprisoned me in. What broke it? I don't see...
She saw a glass surface, and reflected there...what just about anyone would assume to be an ordinary, black furred housecat.
"Is that what you've done to me, warlock?!" she roared aloud. "I look like some ridiculous house pet!!! Even my voice...my mighty voice is but a squeak!!! How dare..." She cut it short--I may not be alone
She gingerly stepped toward the flickering light as it vanished.
But she had the eyes of a housecat; she was still able to see.
"No...no no no..."
Sitting in a chair, perfectly still, not even breathing, was an elderly human man with a long beard, dressed in long, shabby robes. A black and white furred creature, just as still, sat curled in his lap.
On the table before them, a stick of incense that had just burned out, still slightly aglow.
The cat laughed bitterly.
"You escaped my justice, warlock. You and the fetid creature you chose instead of me. But with your death I am now unbound! Now I will unleash my full power and..." Her smug tone disappeared quickly. "Why am I still like this?! With your death, my power should be completely unrestrained! You have not the power to continue this fetter even after your own passing! My release from your prison is testament to that!!!"
She heard voices in the hallway.
I must flee--his allies, or Cadonfloyd may be aware of the warlock's passing...if so...
So she ran.
It was dark...daylight would still be a couple of hours away...but she was still a bit dizzy and disoriented from her sudden emancipation, and had to sit for a time, to collect her senses.
Even in the depths of her despair in that dark hole, she still had clung to one hope: that the warlock would change his mind. Realize what an exquisite familiar she could be, release that reeking pretender. "I've been so stupid, my Dear...will you ever forgive me?"
Now even that irrational hope was gone.
The warlock was dead.
She was free...but somehow still bound.
That didn't make any sense.
That wasn't the way it was supposed to work.
"There you are..." a voice like whispered curses rasped.
Before she could move, she was grabbed.
The voice rasped again.
"Panther panther, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
"No!!! Not you!!! It can't be!!!" she squeaked in fear.
"Aw, is that any way to talk to your old friend?! I may have to cry now...I've been waiting so long to see you. Don't be like that. Hey, I may even spring for some freeze dried chicken treats!!!"
A snorting guffaw reverberated through the night.
PANTHER-PANTHER BURNING BRIGHT
From the Files of Dr. Fritz V. Baugh, GBI Historian
GBI Case File GBNY-2022-40/408
In 1983, three unemployed scientists started up the world's first agency of professional paranormal investigators and eliminators. Thirty-nine years later, Ghostbusters International is thriving.
Today, though, things are quiet at Ghostbusters Central. Two members of the team are away on another mission, so Eric Stantz and Dr. Johnathan Spengler would seem to be having an easy time of it.
That's not gonna last.
New York City
September 14, 2022
Ghostbusters Omnibus Timeline Year Forty
(After the events of "Ghosts Can't Do It")
The ECTO-1 rolled down I-78, on its way back to the Tribeca firehouse that has been known, for most of the last thirty-nine years, as Ghostbusters Central.
A curly-haired man in goggles sat in the driver's seat. In the passenger's seat sat a tall man with red hair.
"That job was easy." the curly haired man--Eric Elwood Stantz was the name given to him by his parents over twenty-six years earlier--said. "So the containment field still holding?"
The red haired man--twenty-three year old Johnathan Christopher Spengler--grunted before replying, as he studied the readings on his hand-held device. "So good so far."
"Maybe you've finally licked that induction regulator overload." Eric offered.
"Starting to look that way." John nodded.
The radio was playing. "And we're back to The Ride with Vic Six. That was Bismuth Panther with their big hit, 'Photograph of an Autograph'." the host's voice said, with a heavy Brooklyn accent. "So, music lovers, we got a real treat for you today--tenth caller wins tickets to the Zagnut concert tonight at Quinn Center!"
"Aw, shit!" Eric said. He looked at the dashboard console. "Dial WKYR!"
After a few rings, the call was answered. "Hey, thanks for callin' WKYR. Sucks for you, but you're the eleventh caller! You get nothing! You lose! Good day!" Then it clicked back off.
John chuckled. "Yeah, that's Vic, all right."
"Dammit, I wanted those tickets. Maybe I should have sponted something to get the timing right..."
John looked confused. "Who's this Zagnut guy, and why are you trying to get tickets?"
Eric did a double take. "Zagnut? The multi-platinum rapper? The guy who's been popular for like most of our lives?"
"Oh. One'a those." John sneered, and went back to his GBX.
"How can you not know who Zagnut is, but be listening to the Vic Six show?"
John replied. "Because I know Vic Six."
Eric looked confused for a few seconds. Then it hit him. "Wait...that's your cousin, right?"
John nodded. "Victor Irwin, yeah, Aunt Doris's son."
"How many cousins do you have? I keep losing track."
"I only have two." John replied, a bit indignant. "You know them--Jen, who's Uncle Ellis's daughter, and Victor."
"I thought the Mayor was your cousin, too." Eric noted.
John shook his head. "Second cousin. Alec's mom Michelle is Mom and Aunt Dee's cousin."
"Ah." Eric rolled his eyes.
"...I mean, that's great if Zagnut's your thing, but I'll tell ya, I'm more of a Stomach Monkeys man myself. Now 'Jonestown Punch'...that's a classic!"
"...Amazing how much Victor's 'radio voice' sounds like Grandpop Melnitz." John said as he got out of the ECTO-1. "He got the idea for the name 'Vic Six' from my Pop."
"Yeah, yeah, I see now: V-I, his initials, the Roman numeral for 'six'." Eric rolled his eyes. "I probably use Roman numerals more than you ever did, JC."
Jeremy Cranston, the team's Client Administrator, waved at them as they arrived. The Firehouse's resident ghost, Slimer, also looked expectantly.
Eric rolled his eyes again, and went over to a canister of dog treats sitting by the reception desk. He took three out and threw them at Slimer; they never hit the floor.
"How in the world did that start?" John asked.
"The Postal Worker started leaving dog biscuits with the mail." Eric answered. "Then before you knew it he was expecting them every time I came into the Firehouse."
"There you guys are." the voice of Johnathan's fraternal twin sister, Eden Marie Spengler, broke in, as she appeared at the top of the stairs. "Things go all right?"
"Yeah." John indicated his GBX. "Completely stable containment matrix--I think the induction regulator problem is fixed."
Eden took a few steps back. "I hope so."
Eric chuckled. "Yeah, I don't know if she brought a change of clothes this time."
"Hah hah." John retorted in a deadpan voice.
"We just got a call from GBI." Eden said. "They sent us a case..."
"Aw, man." Eric groaned.
"Let me go put this little wiggler down in the basement." John said, heading downstairs to the containment unit. "Then we can get the bad news."
"The Zagnut concert?!" Eric said excitedly. "We get to go to the Zagnut concert!?"
Even Jeremy looked a little confused. "He's still around? Wow."
John groaned. "You've got to be kidding."
"He's the one who likes to rap about murdering his ex-wife and raping her corpse, right?" Jeremy said.
"Yeah...that one's a classic." Eric nodded. "See, JC, even Jeremy knows who Zagnut is, and I thought he's usually more square than you are!"
"Um...thanks?" Jeremy nodded.
"Question: what the heck does that have to do with us?" John said, looking a bit in pain.
Eden replied. "It has to do with the mummy."
"His mother?" John asked.
"He did a rap where he said his Mom has sex with barnyard animals." Eric chipped in.
"She must be so proud of him." Jeremy deadpanned.
"I realize you're fond of people who use London dialects, Johnathan, but in this case we mean an actual mummy: an undead Egyptian pharaoh." Eden explained, unlocking her tablet.
Pharaoh Tohnloq aka MC Pharaoh
Cross Reference: GBI Case File GBWC-2004-22/001; GBWC-2006-24/209; GBWC-2009-27/401
Class IV Mummified Reanimated Corpus
PKE Reading: Power 6; Ectopresence unestablished
Pharaoh Tohnloq was a grandson of the infamous "Clown Pharaoh" Ahagotsu (mentioned in Tobin's Spirit Guide
), but dreamed of being a singer. Unfortunately, he couldn't sing and became what could be called the world's first "gangsta rapper". He was mummified after death and remained so until the morning hours of January 1, 2004, when he ripped free of his sarcophagus and turned up twelve hours later in the mansion of Matthew "Zagnut" Marshall. After standard Ghostbusting methods proved ineffective, GBWC member John Lipsyte brokered a deal wherein Tohnloq became part of Marshall's entourage, where he became known as MC Pharaoh.
Description: Wrapped in bandages, decaying. Wears sunglasses, lots of tacky jewelry (his "bling bling"), screams about cursing you if you piss him off.
Current Status: Touring with Matthew "Zagnut" Marshall. All GBI locations on the tour schedule are encouraged to remain vigilant
"Oh. The one with the mummy, yeah. Why didn't you just say so?" John nodded, pretending to slap Eric. "But isn't this Charlene's crew's turf?"
"She's in Paris, remember, and the rest of the team's on the other side of the continent." Eden replied. "According to Uncle Peter, part of the arrangement made between GBI and the Los Angeles museum that Tohnloq escaped from is that local GBI franchises need to be informed of Zagnut's concert schedule."
"Cool." Eric nodded.
"And they requested a meeting with aforementioned GBI franchise. Which means us." Eden finished.
The ECTO-1 pulled to a stop. "We're here." Eric said.
John, Eden, and Eric got out of the car, now clad in the Ghostbuster uniforms.
"Quinn Center?" Eden asked. "Not exactly Madison Square Garden, is it?"
"Yeah, well, Zag's not as big as he used to be." Eric shrugged. "Twenty years ago he'd have been at the Garden, but hey, this is still pretty good! You can see all the people around."
There was, indeed, some brisk foot traffic into the Center. Many of those they saw were wearing Zagnut t-shirts of various ages and states of wear, though they noted that most of those they saw were probably in the neighborhood of ten years older than the three Ghostbusters.
"What's with all the pictures of ugly monkeys all over the place?" John asked. "They from the latest CD or something?"
"Nope. Those are 'Uglii Munkii' NFT images." Eric answered. "They're really popular--Zagnut and MC Wink are selling them. Took off after they did a video with them at the Allmusic TV awards a couple months ago."
"NFTs are a scam." Eden snorted. She didn't snort very often. "And if they really are called 'Ugly Monkeys', they are accurately named."
"Pistols and n-sabers only." John noted, deciding he didn't want to waste any more time on a subject he was already sorry he brought up. "We'll attract less attention that way."
Eric shrugged. "Well, it's not like having a proton fight in the middle of a Zagnut show is a new thing--there was one time back in 2006 that the Ghostbusters West Coast had to stop a Soul Tracker right in the middle of a concert. All they had to do was say it was part of the show and no one panicked."
"Whatever you're thinking about saying, don't." Eden chided her brother.
John rolled his eyes.
Note: My language filter isn't as strict as back in the Angelfire and Proboards days, but because I enjoy writing Zagnut with "censored" euphemistic language in [brackets], I'm going to keep doing so. Thanks for understanding
"[I am sadly disappointed that I can no longer sell out Madison Square Garden, and instead have to perform in this charming, cozy club.]" the Ghostbusters heard as they were brought into the backstage area.
"Um...Mister Marshall? The Ghostbusters are here..." the security guy who let them in informed him.
The international rap superstar Matthew "Zagnut" Marshall was in his early forties; he was no longer as scrawny as he'd been in the mid 2000s, and had since shaved off his spiky blond hair (he violently denied rumors that it was because it was falling out, and in fact had once punched out a TMZ reporter for saying so). He messily ate the last bite of a custard cream pie
"What? This [bunch of pimply faced kids] are the Ghostbusters?!" Zagnut spat.
"Pleased to meet you too." John deadpanned. He noted that there were a few more custard pies and bottles of seltzer water around the room.
"Uh, hi, Mister Marshall. I'm Eric Stantz, and this is Dr. Eden Spengler and Dr. John Spengler. We're from Ghostbusters New York."
Zagnut perked up a little, and started to blatantly stare at Eden's chest. "This ain't so bad all of a sudden." He winked at her, a piece of pie crust falling off his face. "You legal, right?"
She crossed her arms. "I'm pretty sure I'm still under the half your age plus seven rule."
"More a guideline than a rule, Boom-Boom." Zagnut said with a creepy grin.
Eden shoved John in front of her.
Zagnut blinked. "Oh wait...she your old lady, Man?"
"Sister." John replied brusquely.
There was a deep rumble, and something else shambled into the room.
"The mummy!" Eric said excitedly.
MC Pharaoh was tall, but framewise little more than bones; tattered, greenish bandages surrounded its body. He was dressed in baggy pants pulled down below his butt, hightop sneakers, a Lakers jersey with Lebron James's number, a backwards baseball cap, and enough tacky jewelry to, well, outfit a gangsta rapper.
"Homey!" Zagnut called, and high-fived the mummy.
"WHO THESE KIDS?!" Pharaoh rumbled.
Zagnut laughed like a braying donkey. "See? Pharaoh rec'nizes..."
"Wow..." Eric said. "Eric Stantz, Ghostbusters International. I've met ghosts, zombies, demons, and some other things I can't really talk about, but never an actual Egyptian mummy before!"
"HEH HEH...FANBOY..." Pharaoh chuckled.
"Now all you need is a [groupie] or two..." Zagnut added, leering at Eden again.
"I understand there was some specific issue of concern that got you to contact our offices?" Eden asked.
"Huh?" Zagnut looked confused.
"NOTE." Pharaoh said.
"Huh?" Zagnut still looked confused.
Pharaoh sighed, pointing at Zagnut. "HIGH AT THE TIME."
"I'm [incredibly] high all the time!!!" Zagnut rolled his eyes.
The security guard nodded, and produced a piece of paper. "We received this from the Center staff. It didn't have any sort of return address."
John pulled out his GBX. He took a few seconds to read MC Pharaoh and filter out his PKE emissions. "There's a slight trace, but nothing worrying."
"Hm..." Eric, who was wearing gloves, opened the paper. "Uh..."
"Hieroglyphics!" Eden's eyes went wide. "I'd estimate maybe the Fifth Dynasty of the Egyptian Old Kingdom or so."
"Can you read it?" Eric asked.
John chuckled as his sister gave Eric an indignant look.
"Stupid question, I know, sorry..." Eric blushed.
"Isn't that, like, about right for you, Pharaoh?" John asked.
Pharaoh shrugged. "...FORGOT HOW..."
"He was dead for about four thousand years, so I guess a thing or two slips out of the mind, yeah." Eric nodded.
"[This is so f-bombing boring...]" Zagnut muttered, drinking some purplish liquid. "I aughtta call Wink an' see how our Uglii Munkii NFTs are selling...[My beloved fans] better be buyin' [a bunch]..."
"Hm..." Eden studied the paper for a few moments before finally saying. "I think it's saying something like 'Looking forward to seeing you again, and break a leg.' Then there's this unusual glyph of a man with a ram's head kicking another man in the, er, posterior."
"Mean anything to you, MC?" Eric asked.
MC Pharaoh rumbled, looking deep in thought for a few moments. "...DON'T...THINK SO..."
"We'd better stay in the area until the concert's done." Eric said. "If someone knows who and what MC is and is versed enough in Egyptian hieroglyphics to send him something he could have been able to read, we may be dealing with more than a garden variety stan."
"Ungh..." John groaned, clearly not enthused about the idea.
Eden sighed. "Father did tell us there would be days this job was definitely not fun..."
The door to the office read:
Inside, the black cat was sleeping on a chair in front of a messy desk.
On the chair next to her, a short, ugly human with a hunched back, wearing an orange and green suit sat nearby, talking in French to someone on his telephone.
The cat awoke with a start. "What..."
"It's not eight yet, you know that." the raspy voice she hated most said blithely, from the other side of the desk.
She hissed at him.
He hissed back, and then laughed his snorting, grating laugh. The hunchback on the phone gave them both an annoyed look, but otherwise ignored both of them.
"Going somewhere?" the raspy voice said as she jumped down and started to head for the door.
"I sense something..." she admitted grudgingly. "I don't know what..."
"Maybe some of the mice you killed are out. For. REVENGE!!!"
The door was opened, and she stalked out.
"Don't miss the show, my Dear! It's been literally centuries in the making!!!" the hated voice laughed as she left.
"...Anyway, so we should probably have one of us stay with the mummy at all times..." John was saying.
"Huh?" Eric startled.
He signaled for a huddle.
"I sense something..." he whispered.
"What?" Eden asked.
"I don't know..." Eric shook his head.
"I thought you weren't going to do any wizard stuff while on the clock with GBI." John noted. "Against the rules and all that."
"That's just it--I wasn't." Eric replied. "But something pinged me anyway...and I never felt anything like it before..."
"Go take a look and see if you can find it." John nodded. "Up to you if you take your Ghostbuster gear--but either way, call us if there's trouble. Eden and I'll have to keep an eye on the mummy."
Eric nodded and walked off without saying another word.
"What his problem?" Zagnut snorted.
"He wanted to go buy some NFTs" John lied.
A few minutes later, Zagnut had left to go get stoned before his performance. John paced around as Eden looked through her tablet.
"I do have one rather...far-fetched hypothesis." she finally said.
John raised an eyebrow, in a way that anyone who knew their father would recognize. "And that is?"
"It could be connected to Tohnloq's grandfather, the Pharaoh Ahagotsu." Eden explained.
They both knew the story from Tobin's Spirit Guide: how in the year 1899 JH Tobin became involved in the strange disappearances of pantomime troupe performers from Hobb's Lane Music Hall in the East End of London. The culprit turned out to be the mummy of Pharaoh Ahagotsu, the notorious "clown-king" from the Old Kingdom period.
Tobin and his new partner in paranormal investigations, Shrewsbury Smith, managed to find the pantomime performers unharmed, but the mummy escaped them.
"And the mummy was never found." John mused, nodding. He looked at where MC Pharaoh was still standing motionless.
"The signature made me think of it--right here in Tobin's:" Eden read a passage from the book.
There were further clues on the pages, clues not connected with the translation, clues that only someone trained such as I could detect. Just as we English no longer spell our words the way that Geoffrey Chaucer did in the fourteenth century, so, the Egyptians of different eras used different symbols to refer to the same thing. These hieroglyphs were particularly distinctive, because only during the brief reign of one Old Kingdom pharaoh was the depiction of a ram-headed man kicking another man in the buttocks the symbol for the word "hilarious." Whatever had written these horrible messages had learned to write hieroglyphics as they were written in the reign of the pharaoh Ahagotsu.
"That's a disturbing thought." John said.
"Yes." Eden agreed.
He leaned in closer to Eden. "Do you think MC knows?"
"I doubt it; he didn't recognize the hieroglyphs and the signature" Eden replied. "But it's not impossible that he's covering, either."
They were silent for about fifteen more seconds.
"You think you can babysit the mummy for a bit? I want to see if I can sweep the place for valences. It'll be tough with all the fans' PK traces setting up an interference pattern, but if there's another mummy here it might stand out." John pulled out his GBX.
"Okay, but remember the first rule." Eden reminded him. "You find something call me or Eric immediately."
She heard footsteps, and ducked into a corner.
A human she didn't recognize appeared. Not that that was unusual in a building full of people here for a concert (that based on the recordings her hated "master" played she was NOT looking forward to) but she hid anyway.
He was a tall, ginger-haired male garbed in violet and red, staring with some frustration at a small device. One of those damn talk-boxes the humans of today are so fond of? she wondered.
But something was different about this one. He has an aura of magic about him...yet... She stared for a few seconds more, then came to a conclusion. He's not the one I'm looking for. I know that much.
She jumped out from her hiding spot, and ran off.
She heard the human grumble "Great...and now even the cats are setting the damn thing off..."
What am I doing?
Eric mused to himself. Going on a wild goose chase...on a weird hunch?
He shook his head and wondered what Master Vincent would think of this.
Is it half the team being in France that's bothering me? Especially since it's the half that has Marie in it? I mean, yeah, we had a bit of fun back on the Long Island Sedgewick case, but...c'mon. It's Marie Lupin. That's all it will ever be with her.
Meanwhile, here I am on a job with Eden, and all the stuff from that keeps messing me up...it's like in a weird way I'm actually grateful to be away from her for a little bit...I'm not so distracted by her I'm making shit up, am I?
He shook his head vigorously.
He heard movement, and an electronic noise.
He smirked. He recognized the text tone.
John was getting frustrated, no doubt about it.
What is up with this place? The PKE readings are all screwy, even taking the crowds into account... He looked around. Something over there? Or another false reading?
A black cat jumped out and ran off. "Great...and now even the cats are setting the damn thing off..." Unless it's a magical cat, of course, but the chances of that...
John looked around as his cell phone buzzed.
Can't talk right now. On a case.
Just about then Eric walked up. "Did I hear your text tone?"
John shoved the phone back into his pocket. "Just a reminder tone--if I was home right now Jeopardy's starting." It wasn't a complete lie...it is starting right about now...
Eric raised an eyebrow. "Oh. I just wondered if maybe you'd heard from TJ yet?"
John rolled his eyes. "They're on a case, you know."
"Well, yeah, but they're in Paris." Eric noted. "You know...an entire city full of suave Frenchmen. Aren't you worried that, I dunno, some smooth talking French cop will put the moves on her?"
"You're sounding more like Lupin all the time." John shook his head. "You found whatever was pinging your Harry Potter sense yet?"
"No." Eric shook his head and chuckled "I guess while I'm here I'll ask how the Paul Blart remake went."
John fixed him with a critical eye for a second or two, but decided it would be even more suspicious if he chose not to answer. "It sucked. But we expected it to suck, since the movie it was remaking wasn't exactly an Oscar contender in the first place." John inhaled and started to imitate a higher pitched voice with a strong English accent. " 'Why in the hell would they remake a piece of rubbish like that, and make it an even bigger piece of rubbish?' "
Eric chuckled. "If she heard you do that she'd probably hurt you."
"We were the only ones in the theater, so we spent the whole time mocking it. 'Rubbish rubbish rubbish' we chanted every time something stupid happened." John continued, a smile started to break onto his face. "I said at the end 'Thank Adonai we didn't make this a drinking game--if we'd taken a swig every time something rubbish appeared, we'd have been taken to the hospital with alcohol poisoning an hour ago!' She laughed and agreed."
Eric patted him on the back. "Glad to hear you had a great time."
John caught himself, his face returning to a more neutral expression. "Well, yeah...it was...pleasant."
" 'Course I already knew you made it home before one in the morning, so I guess it wasn't too pleasant. Had to pace yourselves, I guess."
"There you go sounding like Lupin again." John grunted, and looked away.
Eric smirked. "Rubbish."
"Whatever." John rolled his eyes. "I need to get back to Eden--the concert's gonna start soon. You?"
Eric looked away. "I'm not done yet."
The hunchbacked man drummed his fingers on the desk impatiently.
"So what do you think, Igor? This me?"
Igor spared a look. "Yes, that is certainly the appropriate dress for an American rap concert, Monsieur Harley. Certainly."
The other person made a snorting guffaw. "What scarab crawled up your ass and died?"
"I'm waiting to hear from our...pale friend."
The whole facility started to shake; it might have been confused for a minor earthquake, save for the rhythmic timing of it.
"They're starting!" the one referred to as "Harley" said excitedly. "It's showtime!!!"
Sure enough, the show had started. Zagnut was performing one of his biggest hits.
["I went up to my wife, whom I suspect to being promiscuous
I forced her to fellate me at gunpoint
Then I shot her in the head
And had intercourse with her still warm corpse"]
John and Eden were both wearing noise-canceling earmuffs. They weren't working as well as either hoped, but it was their only chance for not ending up with splitting headaches that evening.
[[And Eric actually wanted to come to this show?]] John quipped, using sign language.
[[Ironically, he's the one now missing it, too.]] Eden replied, nodding with an eyeroll. They'd both learned sign language from their father before they were no longer able to count their ages on both hands.
John spared a look at his GBX. [[Nothing yet.]] he signed. Eden nodded in understanding.
As Zagnut performed, MC Pharaoh nodded in rhythm with the seismic bass track.
"Well, crap, it's started." Eric said out loud. This was just a wild goose chase anyway, so why don't I go...
Whatever it was he felt back in the green room, he felt it again.
It can't be!
she thought to herself. It's impossible...
She had discovered why her senses were alight.
He didn't look the same. He looked younger. Like someone else. With more hair on his head but none on his face. A jacket that looked like flames. He didn't move like the man she'd spent decades resenting...
...But it's HIM
...but her senses told her that standing before her was the architect of her suffering.
"ZEPHYRANTHES!!!" she roared, and lept.
A black housecat lept at him from the shadows.
But as it did, it grew in size.
It had been so long, but now it was back!
The power surged through her!
Her true power! Her true form reborn at last!!!
Even as a Ghostbuster and trained wizard of the Order of Hermes, Eric Elwood Stantz couldn't believe what was about to happen to him.
I'm about to be devoured by a panther!?!?
Zagnut was already looking winded, but the crowd was loud and enthusiastic.
"Hey, [Loyal Fans], how ya doin' tonight?!" he asked.
They cheered loudly.
"You're awesome!" Zagnut continued. "So, I hope you're buyin' up the great product your boy Zagnut is sellin', the Uglii Munkii NFTs! They're hot, collectible, and they'll be worth a fortune! You'll be glad you did after [(paranoid conspiracy theory about Jewish bankers, the New World Order, and space lizards crashing the economic system)]."
Asshole. John snapped to himself angrily, thinking about turning around and leaving. Edie and I are from a Jewish family, you anti-Semitic garbage fire...
"So go to my web site--because Uglii Munkii NFTs are super cool awesome monkeys, that's backslash s-c-a-m!!!" Zagnut finished, the opening seismic thudding of his hit "[My Mom Has Sex With Donkeys]" starting up.
There was an explosion of smoke right next to Zagnut.
"[Loud, vulgar declaration of surprise]."
"Tah-Dah!!!" a voice called out.
The smoke dissipated, and out of it came a tall, gaunt figure dressed in a clashing, colorful outfit of reds, pinks, yellows, and greens.
His face and hands, however, were covered with tattered, greenish bandages, very much like those on MC Pharaoh. Perched on the front of his bandaged face, though, was a fake Groucho Marx nose, mustache, and glasses.
The crowd was sounding confused.
"I just flew in from England, and boy, are my sacred ibis's arms tired!!!" the gaudy man said, in a raspy, strongly accented voice.
He sounds like John Cleese gargling razor blades... John remarked to himself.
"Is that Ahagotsu!?!" Eden said, the music having stopped and the crowd quieted with confusion enough for John to hear her. "It has to be!"
They spared a look at MC Pharaoh. He was still staring at the crowd, arms crossed, scowling menacingly like he hadn't even realized anything unusual was happening.
"[Fool! You better recognize!!!]" the angry Zagnut howled, charging the gaudy mummy.
The mummy easily side-stepped him. "My boy, sounds like maybe your blood sugar is low!" He conjured a custard cream pie, much like the ones in the green room, out of thin air, and smashed it into Zagnut's face.
Zagnut tripped over his own feet, and crashed into some of the backup singers.
The mummy started to moonwalk.
The crowd started to boo loudly.
Just about then, MC Pharaoh realized that something was going on. He turned around and looked at the intruder. "...huh?"
John and Eden nodded at each other, unholstered their proton pistols, and started to move toward the stage.
"Well, well, about time you noticed you had company, Tohnloq!" the gaudy mummy said. "Been a while, hasn't it?"
MC stood there for a few moments...then finally, confusedly, rumbled "...GRANDPA?!"
Then he saw something.
It reminded him of the day Master Vincent had awakened his arts, eight years earlier.
When it happened, it was like, in his mind's eye, he could see fifteen dials, each one corresponding to the five techniques and ten forms of the Hermetic arts. He would cast magic by learning how to twist those dials to get the power he needed to cast the spell.
"Sounds like a strangely fitting thought framework for an engineer's son" Vincent had said, not without some amusement.
But what he saw materialize in his mind's eye as this panther with murder in its eyes jumped at him was a switch.
He didn't have time, unprepared as he was, to twist the magic dials.
But he did have time to flip this switch.
So he did.
The panther slammed into him...
...but was once again a housecat. An angry housecat, still trying to bite and scratch at him, but far from the enormous beast it had been only a second earlier.
"Rego animal!!!" Eric shouted, his mind cleared enough to twist a couple of those dials.
The cat flew off of him, but being a cat, it landed on its feet and faced him, hissing.
"Damn you, Zephyranthes, you did it again!!!" the cat shouted.
"Zephyranthes"? I think that was the name of a mobile suit in Gundam 0083, but what does that have to do with me?
"I don't know who you think I am, Pussums, but I feel pretty sure I'm not them."
The cat hissed again, then seemed to calm down a bit. "No...I suppose now that I get a better look at you, a better feel for you, you're not...but I could swear even though you looked different..." She bristled again. "And what did you do to my power? I only just got it back!!!"
Eric looked thoughtful for a second. "I'm not completely sure...but I think it had to do with...this."
He threw the switch in his mind again.
The housecat became a panther again.
"How....how are you doing this?" the panther said. "How did you get this power over me?!"
Concerned it was about to attack again, he switched it back.
He thought about making something up, but decided honesty was the best policy in this case. "Honestly...I don't know."
"I still sense Zephyranthes's work in this..." the cat snarled.
"Who's Zephyranthes?" Eric asked.
"The warlock who imprisoned me..." the cat answered. "He bound my powers, and placed me into some sort of prison. He said I'd stay there until his dying day, and I did, but even then...my freedom returned, but not my power. Until now, when I encountered you. But it still seemed to be bound."
Eric looked thoughtful. "Yeah...this is damn strange...."
MC Pharaoh looked around, saw Zagnut apparently out cold and the crowd starting to boo loudly, saw the other mummy standing before him, and remembered something kind of like this before. He grabbed a microphone and shouted "PART OF SHOW!!!"
The crowd stopped booing, but was still mumbling and confused. John heard someone say "I thought I paid for a Zagnut concert, not this dumb bullshit..."
"So how you been, Tohnloq?" the gaudy mummy asked.
"DEAD, MOSTLY." MC answered.
John and Eden got to the stage. "I hate to be a buzzkill, but you mind telling us what you're doing here?"
"What are you, the dead people police?" the brightly dressed mummy retorted.
"KINDA" MC answered.
"We're Eden and John Spengler from Ghostbusters International." Eden explained. "We're here as contracted by the City of New York and the Museum that formerly housed Pharaoh Tohnloq's remains to provide security in regard to supernatural manifestations."
"I take it you are his grandfather, Pharaoh Ahagotsu?" Eden continued; while she was talking, John checked on Zagnut. He was woozily trying to get back to his feet, but failing so far.
"Y' hoid'a me?!" the gaudy mummy asked brightly. "I'm flattered!!!"
"You had an extensive article in Tobin's Spirit Guide" Eden continued.
"Never heard of it." Ahagotsu answered. "But most of the stuff I read comes in brown paper wrappers."
"HUH...HUH HUH..." MC chuckled.
"Granddad still makes you laugh, huh?" Ahagotsu beamed.
"Yeah, so, I understand wanting to see your grandson..." John broke in. "But this is really not the best way to do it."
Ahagotsu laughed, a snorting guffaw that John and Eden both decided was instantaneously irritating. "My dear Sir, you treat me as though I've committed some sort of crime? I'm not a ghost, you know, so is just being...mortality challenged enough to get me, as you say, 'busted'?"
"Well, were I a police officer, I could get you on trespassing." John quipped. "You could have at least bought a ticket."
"...or an Uglii Munkii NFT..." Zagnut said woozily.
"Trespassing? My dear Mister Spengler, how can I be trespassing when I own this establishment?!"
"What?!" John and Eden said in unison.
"Quinn Center." Ahagotsu continued. "I had it built back in the 1990's, back when I was calling myself 'Harley Quinn', like the harlequin." Ahagotsu visibly grimaced, no mean feat behind the bandages and the fake nose and glasses. "Had to change it because of some damn funnybook character, though."
"Okay...why?" John asked.
“Building the Center, I'm sure he means.” Eden added.
"The same reason I've been trying to give Jolly Olde England a sense of humor over the last century! To make the world funnier!!! To cultivate the next Benny Hill, or Three Stooges, or Adam Sandler."
"Yeah, that's what the world needs, more Adam Sandlers." John deadpanned.
Ahagotsu didn't seem to hear him, and kept rambling. "I mean, I was worried when they remade Paul Blart: Mall Cop! How could they remake such a comedic masterpiece, and only thirteen years after the original?! And then they nailed it!!! I cried tears of joy!!! Or I would have, if I still had working tear ducts."
"Okay, Edie stop me now before I shoot him."
"But enough about all of that..." Ahagotsu said, turning back to MC. "The whole reason I made this booking was so that I could see you, Tohnloq."
MC blinked a couple times. "...MISS?"
"You haven't quite got the talking thing figured out again yet, have you?"
"Yes, yes, the curse..." Ahagotsu stroked his chin. "Hang in there. It took me a good quarter century before I could talk much either...and now everybody keeps telling me to shut up!"
"....Big surprise..." Zagnut muttered.
"But the curse is kind of why I wanted to talk to you, Tohnloq, my boy." Ahagotsu continued. "The curse of the Eye of Apophis."
"EYE?" MC asked, confused.
"You are a warlock? Like Zephyranthes?" the cat asked.
"We prefer the term 'wizard'. Or Latin 'magus', though the female form of that has fallen way out of favor the last seven years. But yes." Eric thought for a second, and went all in. "I am Eric Hawthorne, filius of Vincent Belmont, follower of Bonisagus, magus of the Order of Hermes."
"Zephyranthes also mentioned this 'Order'...something about being a 'Solificat' or something like that."
"Solificati? That's a House of the Order."
"Ah. I wasn't sure...I thought he might have been trying to make fun of me."
"I..." the cat thought about it for a second, then she went all in. "I am a creature of the magic realm. But being in this world that straddles other realms, particularly the Divine, has its dangers to one such as I..."
Eric nodded. "Acclimation. Basically, if you don't keep immersed in enough magic, you start to lose your power."
"You do understand!" the cat sounded pleased. Eric was relieved. "I sought one with whom I could bond, because that staves off the acclimation..."
"Hermetic magic can do that!" Eric said. "It's our familiar bonding ritual!"
"That's why I approached Zephyranthes...but he already had a familiar." She shook her head. "I tried to persuade him differently, but he...trapped me, as I said. I was released--because Zephryanthes and his familiar were dead."
"I admit when first freed I thought it just deserts for his refusal of me..." she shuddered. "But then, as I escaped the warlock's lair, the Lich found me."
" 'Lich'?" Eric asked.
"He was a creature from the ancient past that had returned through dark magic." the cat continued. "I have not told you my name, Eric Hawthorne, because I have no name...other than what the Lich gave me, which he thought was some kind of hilarious reference to a human poem about a tiger. The only name I have ever known...is Panther-Panther."
Eric snapped his fingers. "Tyger tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
"That's the one..." the cat groaned.
"William Blake." Eric nodded. "Our lich had a taste for the classics. But 'Panther-Panther', that's kinda a mouthful...it okay if I call you...I dunno...Pippi?"
" 'Pippi'?" the cat bristled for a few seconds. "Actually...I find that...strangely acceptable."
"Great, Pippi! Pleased to meet you!" Eric said, smiling. "So, er, what happened to your lich?"
Pippi's expression darkened. "He's here now. He currently calls himself Quentin Harley."
" 'The Eye of Apophis'?" Eden asked John. "That sounds familiar..."
"It is similar sounding to the Eye of Aretpo..." John mused.
"Think, Tohny, think..." Ahagotsu prompted. "You were buried with it. I know this because when I found out you had returned, I checked up on you and saw pictures from the museum where your sarcophagus was displayed. You still had the Eye--remember? Blood red, scarab shaped, about yay big?" he said, holding his bandaged hands apart about five or six inches.
"NO..." MC shook his head. "NOT THERE...WHEN AWAKENED..."
Eden snapped her fingers. "The Anubis case!"
John and the two mummies turned around to look at her. "Explain, Edie." John said.
"It was in the case file about Tohnloq's awakening--the gem on the mummy's chest was missing when the Ghostbusters West Coast team found him at Zagnut's house. January 1, 2004."
"...I miss that house..." Zagnut broke in. "Best pool for [lurid adventures with various loose women] ever...[Damn wife] got it in our fifth divorce..."
"It appeared during a major incident in April of that year--it was part of the ritual the Egyptian God Anubis was using to try and destroy the world. The Ghostbusters West Coast and Uncle Peter stopped him, but one of the Ghostbusters died." Eden continued. "Dr. Nash speculated that the cult removing the Eye from the mummy was the catalyst to Tohnloq's awakening."
"YES..." MC nodded.
"And where did the Eye end up, my Dear?" Ahagotsu asked.
"Destroyed." Eden shook her head. "It crumbled to dust when Anubis vanished."
"Well, poop." Ahagotsu grumbled, pulling out a whoopee cushion and squeezing it to emit loud simulated flatulence. The mummy then looked back at MC. "All this effort to find you, and aside from getting to see my favorite grandson after four thousand years, this is all I get for it?"
Igor drummed his fingers impatiently.
His phone rang.
"Oui?" he answered, and the voice at the other end talked.
"La vache..." the hunchback said. "I guess the ridiculous cur came through for us on his babbling nonsense after all. I shall let Quentin know..." He hung up, and looked toward the dark shape standing in the corner of the room.
He snapped his fingers. "Bombie. Find and retrieve the cat."
The dark shape groaned its compliance, grabbed a cat carrier covered in pink heart stickers from the corner, and shambled out.
"Man, can we wrap this [stuff] up? I think my [fans] are getting [restless]..." Zagnut noted.
"Oh come now, I..." Ahagotsu started to say, when suddenly the sounds of Here Come the Mummies' song "Wiener Man" started to come out of his jacket. "Where did I leave that thing?' He pulled out the deflated whoopee cushion and a rubber chicken before finding a cell phone. "Hate this blasted talk-box..." as he glanced at the screen. "Gotta go, Boys and Girls."
"GO?" MC asked, sounding mournful.
"Tohnloq, my boy, it sounds like you've found a place for yourself in this strange new world so different from the one from our living days. You have friends of a sort, and clearly enjoy what you do. I'm really quite happy for you. See you again soon." Ahagotsu pulled out a gun colored the same shade of bright safety orange found on the nozzle caps of American toy guns.
"[Loud exclamation]!!!" Zagnut pulled two (non toy) pistols out of his trousers and fired them at Ahagotsu; since he was holding them the "cool" sideways way, they didn't hit anywhere near the mummy, instead riddling one of the Master Bass 3000 speakers with bullets.
Ahagotsu danced the Macarena and then pointed his gun upwards. With a "pop" a little flag saying "BANG!" appeared.
Ten glowing ghost clowns armed with custard pies materialized, cutting the mummy off from the Ghostbusters and anyone else.
"Tootles!!!" Ahagotsu shouted.
A literal pie fight broke out.
"The Lich, Quentin Harley...though he once called himself something else, like he was someone's mother..."
"A mummy?" Eric asked.
"Yes..." Pippi nodded. "That's it."
"A mummy is a kind of undead too...yeah, lich is similar enough."
"I met Harley before Zephryanthes..." Pippi continued. "He was a lot less verbose then, only groaned a few words at a time. But he was able to conjure magical constructs. He let me eat those, and it kept my powers from declining. But in return I had to watch his horrible attempts at comedy."
Comedic mummy? Eric thought to himself. And interested in MC? I got an idea or two now...
"He found me again when I escaped after Zephyranthes' death, some twenty-six years ago." Pippi continued. "Without my full power, I could not resist him, and as before he sustained the magic within me."
"Damn, twenty-six years..." Eric shook his head. "That's about the time I was born, for goodness sake."
"But now...can you return me to my true form, as you did before?!"
"I think so..." Eric replied, posing with his GBX. "Pippi! Digivolve to..." He flipped the switch in his head, and the housecat once more became a panther. "...Panther-Panther!!!"
"Excellent!" she growled, with obvious approval.
"It's like having my own Digimon!" Eric said.
"What's a Digimon?"
"I'll explain later..." Eric smirked. "But first we gotta go to my friends, and figure out where..."
Panther-Panther hissed. "Look out!!!"
Eric barely dodged in time as something nearly hit him in the head.
The source of the missile ambled into view. It was human...ish. As tall as John Spengler, but with a stockier build, the creature had unnaturally ashen skin of a purplish tinge, save for one shock of bright orange hair at the top of its head. It was clad in a simple tunic and pants tied together by belts made out of vines, with soft shoes of clearly aged and abused material.
Most disconcerting, though, were its droopy eyes--completely blank white sclera, with no pupils or iris in sight.
"Bombie!!! Leave him alone!!!" Panther-Panther lept at the giant creature.
It slammed her away. She only barely managed to land on her feet, but was disoriented; the strength of the attack, and not being fully reacquainted with her recently regained power, left her shaken.
"PERDO CORPUS!!!" Eric shouted, sponting a spell. He was worried about Panther-Panther and trying to figure out just what he was dealing with; as soon as the spell was cast he knew he hadn't done it right.
"Magic is an art, not a science." One of Dr. Belmont's first lessons. "Sometimes it just isn't going to work especially if your mind isn't clear."
The monster grabbed him, and threw him into a wall. Head first. Hard.
"NOOOOOO!!!" he heard Panther-Panther howl, but after that all became darkness.
Ahagotsu strode into the room. "What a performance!!! It's been years since I felt so close to alive!!!"
Igor shook his head. "I still disagree with that stunt. You made yourself known to people you shouldn't have."
"Oh, quit being a party pooper." He pulled out another whoopee cushion and squeezed it. "What was so all-fired important I had to cut my reunion with my grandson short?"
"Talbot, surprisingly, came through for us." Igor replied. "We need to get back to the others quickly."
"Well, then, what about..."
Igor pointed to Bombie, who was holding the cat carrier.
"Who's my widdwe kitty kitty?" Ahagotsu said, poking at the carrier. A black paw swiped angrily and the occupant hissed at him. "Oh, calm down, we'll get you some catnip on the plane."
"I hate you so much..." the cat snarled.
"You say the sweetest things!"
Pippi sighed, and lay down. She had no choice.
When Bombie knocked Eric out, my power faded, and I became this again. Did Eric even survive? And if he did not...what does that mean for me now?
Pippi surprised herself more than anyone when she realized...she didn't want this human to be dead.
Just about the only one ever to know what I really was...and not treat me as an annoyance, a freak, or a plaything. He...he wanted to help me. He...
He's not dead.
He will find me again.
And Quentin Harley or Harley Quinn or the mummy or whatever else the Lich wants to call himself will pay dearly...
"There!!!" John Spengler shouted.
He and Eden were both covered in custard, but unhurt. The clown ghosts had proven very little challenge to proton beams--"They're not even real ghosts, just projections--they dissipate when hit hard enough!!!"
The concert went on, and the two Ghostbusters were able to leave the stage to loud applause as Zagnut started his much-delayed "[My Mom Has Sex With Donkeys]" and called Eric.
With no answer.
Fortunately, between John remembering where he'd briefly encountered Eric earlier and tracing the signal from Eric's GBX, they found him quickly.
Unfortunately, he was laying in a pool of blood from a wound on his head.
"Eric!" Eden cried out.
Eric's eyes opened, but they weren't very focused. "...whu...edie...wheres pippi..."
"Stay there, Buddy, we're callin' an ambulance." John told him.
Eric nevertheless stood up. "...wheres the cat...pippi...and the big bombie..."
"I have no idea what you're talking about." John replied. "You really should stay..."
"...the cat...she needs me...the bombie take her...the mummy will..."
"There's no cat here, Eric." Eden shook her head. "Don't move--it'll only make it worse."
Tears appeared in Eric's eyes. "...panther panther burning bright..."
His world swiftly faded out again.
September 19, 2022
"Gotta give a shout-out to my Ghostbuster cousins, for keeping the Zagnut concert from being completely ruined by a mummy that wasn't MC Pharaoh! Eden, Johnny, great work! Since I mentioned the Ghostbusters, here's a hit from a group with Ghostbuster connections---Mood Slime with 'Baby, You've Changed'...right here on WKYR!!!"
"Great. Like I wasn't even there..." Eric grumbled, turning off the radio. He was sitting up in his GBCentral bed with a bandage still over his head; the doctors had assured him the concussion wasn't too bad, and the wound had looked a lot worse than it actually was, but he'd need to rest for at least another week.
He really didn't remember anything until a day after the concert. He and the Spengler Twins caught each other up on everything--he heard about Ahagotsu, and a lot of what he'd heard from Pippi snapped into place. He had in turn explained about his encounter with the magical cat/panther...though he found it strangely difficult to admit how much he had been affected.
Marie Lupin was in the room. "Aw, that's okay--I still like you." She'd just returned from her mission to Paris earlier that day.
"So you're the only one who came back, Marie?"
"Yeah. Charlene and Jillian are staying in Paris to have wild lesbian sex parties with Charlene's French friend, and do a full diagnostic check of the Eiffel Tower in their spare time. TJ's gone back to Jolly Olde England for all the hubbub over Queen Lizzie kicking the bucket."
Eric chuckled. "Now, I remind you, as a half-Canadian, that's my dead Queen too you're insulting!"
"And I'm part French on my father's side." Marie countered. "Ragging on the English is part of my heritage!"
"I tried to convince Johnny that TJ'd shacked up with a hot French policeman, but he didn't believe me." Marie shrugged. "Playing gags like that would have been so much easier in the days before cell phones and texting."
"Of course, this also means that despite all their denials they're calling and texting each other, right?"
"Heh, yeah." Marie looked smug. "The mating dances of ridiculously inhibited people are both fascinating and damn frustrating at the same time."
Eric nodded. "So you bring the laptop like I asked?"
"Yep." Marie answered, producing the device. "I mean, you guys met two mummies, TJ and I met a werewolf--though I've known one all my life--and we deal with ghosts all the time. All we need now is a vampire and a Frankenstein monster to have all five Monster Cereals on our bingo cards." Marie continued. "So what's so important you couldn't wait until you were in better shape?"
"I need to find something..." Eric answered tersely, logging into the secret Order-only database on Redcap.org.
Search Terms: Zephyranthes, Solificati
Mater: Gardenia Ex Solificati
Vulgar Name: Eric Collins
Born: 1901 AP (AD 1762)
Gauntleted: 1927 AP (AD 1788)
Deceased: 6 AAq (AD 1996)
No further information available in Redcap online archive
"Nigrasaxa?!" Eric said aloud.
"What does that mean?" Marie asked.
"It means that the next person I need to talk to about this situation..." Eric answered. "...Is my Mother."
Based on Ghostbusters Created by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
Ghostbusters 202X Created by Fritz Baugh and OgreBBQ